John’s gospel includes no birth narrative, yet the prologue is read on Christmas day in churches of all kinds. Matthew and Luke tell stories about the birth of the Christ. They offer some comment about its spiritual significance.
On the other hand, John’s prologue describes its spiritual significance, with only a single sentence to summarize the stories.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
John opens his gospel echoing the opening of the account of creation in Genesis. There, the Spirit of God brooded over the waters like a mother hen brooding over a nest. Here, we see the Word as distinguishable from God, yet not separable from God. That is, he is both God and with God as someone apart. And John denies that the Word was only a philosophical concept. The Word is, in fact, a divine, uncreated person.
In Genesis, God first created light––physical light. In John, the very Word was Light. Every created thing came into being through the Word.
The Aryan heresy, expressed these days by Jehovah’s Witnesses, claims that Jesus was a created being and not God. If that were the case, John 1:3 would have to say that all other things came into being through the Word. It says, in fact, that nothing was created apart from this uncreated Word who is uncreated Light.
We know it’s possible to negate sunlight. It happens every night after the sunsets. Or we can go into a cave, where the sun can’t shine. Or we can build a building and go inside. Light will come in through the windows, but we can block it. Or we can stand in the shade of a tree or rock or something that blocks the sun. But even in the darkness of a cave, the Light, who is the Word, shines. Indeed, nothing can overpower it.
John alluded to the original act of creation only to assert that the Word had come into the world. A human messenger, also named John, had borne witness that the Light was coming. John the Baptist gave his testimony so that the people of God would receive the Word and believe.
Except most of them didn’t.
He came to his own, and those who were his own did not receive Him.
Moses led a stiff-necked people out of Egypt. When they refused to enter the Promised Land, he stayed with them in the wilderness until they all died. In the book of Deuteronomy, he addressed their children, who entered and began to possess the land. Moses told them that their children, too, would fall away.
The whole story of the Old Testament concerns God’s faithfulness to a covenant most of his people failed to keep. The prophets confirmed Moses’ warning. In fact, when they looked to the future, they saw continued rebellion from God’s people.
Who has believed our message?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot,
And like a root out of parched ground;
He has no stately form or majesty
That we should look upon Him,
Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.
He was despised and forsaken of men,
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
And like one from whom men hide their face
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Isaiah 53:1-3, NASB
John’s gospel notes the continued story of rebellion and rejection. The Word appeared to the descendants of the same people whom God had led out of Egypt. He had made a covenant with them. He had caused his temple to be built among them so he could live among them. Yet time and again, his own chosen people rejected him. Not only that, they persecuted those who tried to call them back to the covenant.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us
Up until this fourteenth verse, anyone who knew Greek philosophy could follow John’s argument, nodding in approval. The Word who was God was obviously a spiritual person. The Greeks equated the spiritual with good and the material with evil. But now, John claims that this spiritual Word became not only material but human flesh.
This one verse sums up the essential truth of the birth narratives. In John 10:1, Jesus said that the true shepherd enters the sheepfold by the door. Anyone who comes in any other way is a thief and a robber. The ordinary door to humanity is through a woman’s birth canal. But when it’s God himself coming into the world that way, it has to be both ordinary and very strange.
John asserts that the divine Word became human: He was born helpless. He had to learn to walk and talk. He lived like any other human, except that he remained the glory of God.
One Hebrew word, hesed, sums up God’s character and dealing with his rebellious people. The King James Version had to mash two English words together to express it: lovingkindness. The Greek word charis (translated into English as grace) expresses the same thought.
John says that this Word made flesh is begotten of the Father––a similar thought to the Word both being with God and being God. The Word, fully God and fully human, lived among us to show hesed, charis in a way not possible otherwise.
Note also that the law was given (not realized) through Moses. It is possible to consider the law as something apart from Moses. Grace and truth were realized (not given) through the Word. Indeed, it is not possible to consider grace and truth as something apart from him.
No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.
No one has ever seen God, although Moses and Isaiah saw his back briefly. The only begotten God, the Word made flesh, enabled anyone at all to see and comprehend God in a new and clearer way. His name as a man was Jesus.
Jesus of the New Testament, in fact, is Yahweh of the Old Testament. Let no one try to erect a barrier between them.
If anyone could see God, God would look like Jesus. I don’t mean his height, weight, hair color, or other physical characteristics. But Jesus’ character and personality perfectly portray God’s
And although we can only look at Jesus as we would look at ourselves in a mirror, the time is coming when we will be able to see him face to face.
In the meantime, the Christmas stories remain with us to remind us of how and when God decided to become flesh and dwell among us. He lived. He died. He rose again. He will come back. But his Spirit remains in the world, keeping his promise that he would not leave or forsake us